Daily Archives: Saturday, 2nd Jan 2010

Time to pause for breath

Hmm. Not sure what happened there. Without actually doing anything silly like deciding or resolving to post more stuff, I seem to have just got on with it. As of this post, I’ve already done more than in the whole of November, and I’m only just behind December. And some of the posts have been a wee bit longer than I’ve done in a while.

All quite odd, and I’ll probably stop again now I’ve noticed I’ve been doing it.

Red Dwarf – Back to Earth DVD

I mentioned this when it was shown on Dave last Easter, and I pretty much stand by what I said then – it was silly, funny, and earned numerous Geek Points. The DVD gives you the original three episodes, plus a nicely mixed together movie version, inevitably labelled The Director’s Cut,[1] plus a pile of extras:

  • Assorted commentaries
  • The Making of Back to Earth
  • Deleted scenes
  • Smeg Ups (the boys from the Dwarf do good out-takes)
  • Bits, bobs, and other stuff

The “making of” makes it absolutely clear that the Blade Runner thing was the primary inspiration for the story (it gets more obvious on repeated viewing), and it’s all good fun. Some people didn’t like the ending, but it worked for me, and maybe we will get some more Dwarf one day. Would be nice to see if the ninth and tenth series really were any good[2].

[1] Well, since they were riffing off Blade Runner, it seemed appropriate to me…
[2] Apparently they exist in some time line or other…

Doctor Who – The Black Guardian Trilogy

And so we come to the backlog of classic Doctor Who DVD releases. I’ll need to catch up quickly, because there are loads more coming over the next few months. We’ll start with this set of stories from February and March 1983. Peter Davison is the Doctor, with Janet Fielding as Tegan, Sarah Sutton as Nyssa and Mark Strickson as Turlough.

Mawdryn Undead

A nicely time-twisting story. Our old friend the Brigadier is now a maths teacher at a private school, where Turlough, one of his students appears to be an exiled alien. Turlough is approached by our old fiend the Black Guardian, who still bears a bit of a grudge against the Doctor for not letting him play with the Key to Time. The Guardian wants Turlough to kill the Doctor in exchange for being allowed to go home.

Then there’s Mawdryn and his colleagues. A group of aliens who tried to use Time Lord technology to extend their lives indefinitely. Well, it sort of worked, but not in a way they liked. Now they want an end to their dreadful eternally decaying existence.

And it all comes together nicely. For a start, the Brigadier doesn’t remember the Doctor, or any of their adventures, which is a bit odd. And there’s lots of fun with matter transmitters, travelling backwards and forwards in time, and of course the Doctor almost making a heroic sacrifice. And Turlough joins the TARDIS crew.

Extras include:

  • Who wants to live forever – the usual look back with the cast and crew
  • Liberty Hall – an only moderately silly item in which a journalist interviews the Brigadier
  • Deleted scenes, out-takes and the ubiquitous production subtitles

Terminus

Turlough gets everyone into trouble when, at the prompting of the Black Guardian, he sabotages the TARDIS, which manages to lock onto a space liner. To avoid being killed by some technobabble, Nyssa enters the ship, and the Doctor tries to find her. It all gets a bit nasty, as the ship is taking diseased patients to Terminus, a space station which is claimed to be at “the exact centre of the universe”, which caused several astrophysicists to explode, but never mind. There’s a singuarly badly created monster, more fun with the Guardian, and Nyssa decides to stay behind to help the patients.

Extras include:

  • Breaking point – cast and crew look back on the production, which was a little more awkward than some…
  • Origins of the Universe – A look at the science that’s messed around with in the story with Sir Patrick Moore and Dr John Mason
  • Optional CGI effects, model shots, and production subtitles

Enlightenment

In which the TARDIS materialises on what appears to be an old sailing ship. Only the ship turns out to have some very unlikely technology on board, and indeed turns out to be sailing in space. Its captain and officers turn out to be Eternals, yet another of those insufferable superior races that are so bored with their lives that they like to play silly games with “lesser” races. They’re having a bit of a race with other Eternals, in the hope of winning the Ultimate Prize: Enlightenment.

There’s more devious stuff from the Guardian and Turlough, and ultimately Turlough has to make a decision. Fortunately, he gets it right, and the Black Guardian disappears in a puff of pantomime smoke. Well, perhaps not, but it would have worked…

This two-disc edition comes with a new 75 minute edit by the original director, complete with new CGI effects and surround sound on the second DVD. Extras are spread over both discs and include:

  • Winner Takes All – the standard cast and crew looking back thingy
  • Casting Off! – actors including Peter Davison talk about their perspective on working on Doctor Who
  • Single White Female – Barbara Clegg, writer of this story, looks back on her career in general, and Enlightenment in particular
  • The Story of the Guardians – short documentary on the Black and White Guardians
  • Lots more!

The trilogy is flawed, but still fun. Peter Davison is just getting into his stride as the Doctor, and it shows a bit at first, but it’s all pleasantly watchable.

The Colour of Magic DVD

I didn’t get to see this when it was first shown on Sky One, as it was during the period when Sky and Virgin were indulging in an extended game of silly buggers. So, I got the DVD when it was released, but didn’t get round to watching it for a while[5]. You see, I had a bit of a conceptual problem with this adaptation of the first two Discworld books (that’s The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic – they do more or less form a single story[1], so it made sense to make them as one film thingy). The problem was with the central character Rincewind – he’s a sort of failed wizard[2], who after an unfortunate accident with a particularly old and dangerous book, ended up with a spell lodged in his brain which prevented him learning any others[3]. He’d hung around the University ever since, but I’d always visualised him as a relatively young man, so I was a bit alarmed that he was to be played by David Jason, who, fine actor that he is, seemed just too old to be my Rincewind.

But, as the extras reveal, not only is David a fan of the books, he really, really wanted to be Rincewind. And all it took was a line suggesting that he’d been a failed student for about forty years, and all was well.

And all was indeed well. Like Hogfather, it’s close enough to the book to not be annoying, and appropriately twiddled to make good TV. Minor alterations included making the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork much more like the character who’s such fun in the later books, which seemed quite sensible, especially as the next adaptation, to be shown at Easter is Going Postal, in which the Patrician plays an important part.

David Jason was fine as Rincewind, Sean Astin conveyed the naive (ish) Twoflower very well, and Christopher Lee took over from the late Ian Richardson as the voice of Death. The Luggage[4] was realised quite wonderfully, and the whole thing worked very nicely indeed.

Extras include and introduction by Sir Terry, interviews with the man himself, David Jason and Sean Astin, the usual deleted scenes and bloopers, and a, err, useful tourist guide to Ankh-Morpork.

[1] Well, the first book is a set of episodes, nicely parodying popular themes in heroic fantasy. The second one is more of an actual novel. But that’s not really important right now
[2] Which doesn’t stop him having “Wizzard” on his hat…
[3] Apparently they were too scared to stay in his head with the big spell
[4] Homicidal box on lots of little legs.
[5] And even longer to getting round to posting about it, of course

Weight and Stuff Report – 2 January 2010

Now isn’t that a good start? Down a whole pound since yesterday. Just another thirty or so to go…

I just went for a walk in Saltwell Park to get some snow pictures. I’ll be putting the best of them on the new photo site later, but here’s a sample, which is today’s extra bit of stuff to make the weight report less boring:

War memorial in the snow

War memorial in the snow

The South African War Memorial in Saltwell Park, with snow falling.

That’s the South African War Memorial in Saltwell Park, with snow falling.